Trump’s Uphill Battle For Bernie Voters

Bill Scher

“I think I’ll get a lot of his supporters” Donald Trump said on CNN of Bernie Sanders voters. A few seconds earlier, Trump smeared Sanders, saying he “could be beyond a socialist.”

That sums up his problem. Trump and Sanders are like oil and water, and so are their supporters. I delved into Trump’s conundrum today in Politico Magazine.

The two overlap some on trade and foreign policy, but there is much more that keeps them apart:

Sanders supports a carbon tax; Trump calls global warming a hoax. Sanders wants a $15 minimum wage; Trump has said “our wages are too high.” Sanders wants to jack the top income tax rate up to 54 percent; Trump wants to slash it to 25 percent.

Their foreign policies do not dovetail that neatly. Sanders’ anti-imperialist fans would not echo Trump’s call to “take the oil” in Iraq. Nor would they want to “authorize something beyond waterboarding” for suspected terrorists, let alone “take out their families.”

Then there is the enormous gulf on race. Sanders has linked Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the country to Adolf Hitler’s Holocaust, as a reminder “what a lunatic can do by stirring up racial hatred.” While Sanders rails against excessive police violence and mass incarceration; Trump has said the police are “absolutely mistreated” and endorsed a beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his rallies, saying “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

Trump’s recent moves to the left are more feint than pivot. He offers some rhetorical nods to a higher minimum wage and top end tax rate, before rejecting a federal wage increase and insisting he will cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations.

Even on trade, the underpinnings of their position are not in sync:

For Sanders supporters, trade is not a stand-alone voting issue—most of his base is too young to have lost a factory job because of NAFTA or Permanent Normal Trade Relation Status with China. Trade is part of a broader critique about how the rules are rigged for the billionaire class, of which Trump is a member. Trump’s promise to negotiate better deals doesn’t automatically signal to millennial democratic socialists that what he thinks is a better deal matches what they think is a better deal, if at the same time he’s on record supporting low wages and low top end tax rates.

Fundamentally, the two camps have a different worldview:

As the New York Times’ Thomas Edsall explained, citing the research of political scientist Emily Ekins and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, Trump and Sanders supporters register on opposite sides of the spectrum regarding their core values in the areas of authoritarianism, empathy and “proportionality” (the desire for people to “reap what they sow”). In contrast, the value sets of Clinton and Sanders supporters are fairly close to each other.

Trump can’t simply adopt a few of Bernie’s positions to win over Bernie voters. He would need a wholesale revision of his philosophical outlook, rejecting racism, anti-intellectualism and authoritarianism — everything that has fueled his campaign to date.

Hillary Clinton will have to work to bring Sanders voters into her camp. But they are at least in the same ballpark. Trump and Sanders are playing two different games entirely.

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